Malpractice News

August 12, 2013

Obese kids consume more calories than parents think

Everyone knows something about food = calories and too many calories leads to unhealthy weight gain. That’s why adults have the recommended 2000 calories a day that people ought to consume from healthy sources located in the five basic food groups. However, eating healthily isn’t as easy as it sounds and parents would do well to keep track of what their children are eating on a daily basis. A new study suggests “overweight kids may be consuming far more calories than their doctors or parents realize.” 

Old models revamped

First, scientists revisited the idea the mathematical model that calculates the number of recommended calories for the age groups. The 2000 calorie rule of thumb is calibrated for adults of a moderate fitness level, not for children, and not for people with very sedentary lifestyles. Children go through a number of stages and caloric requirements, and the new model takes into account “kids’ higher metabolisms, relative to adults, and takes into account the drop in physical activity that happens with age as frenetic toddlers turn into sluggish teens.” 

More calories needed to gain weight than previously thought

After these many and varied calculations, scientists realized children need far more calories to gain weight than was previously realized. Kevin Hall, the study’s author and senior investigator at the U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, explained, “It’s a bit of a moving target. The point of these examples is that the excess calorie consumption is much larger than most folks would have suggested in the past.” 

Scientists provide examples

One example the researchers gave was that according to the old model, a normal weight girl at age 5 needed to eat only an additional 40 calories a day (the same amount as a small apple) to be 22 pounds overweight by age 10. However, the new model says that actually she’d need to be eating 400 extra calories a day (the same as a medium serving of French fries from a fast food restaurant) to gain that much weight. 

Children weigh 13 pounds extra today

An additional analysis completed by Hall and his co-authors compared children’s weight from the 1970s to children’s weight today. They found that children today are on average 13 pounds heavier than their 1970s counterparts. This means that modern children are eating about 200 calories extra a day.


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